The Best B-Pictures Of The 1930s

by Akira_Chimera | created - 23 Mar 2011 | updated - 3 months ago | Public

This list is dedicated to those pictures that are not much talked about or sometimes even sneered at. Most of these movies were made on a small budget but can be very entertaining nevertheless. That is, if you generally dig B-pictures of the sci-fi or horror genre, for example. Some of the entries might be considered trash, but I assure you that you will find only the hilarious ones here. So, if you are in the mood for a somewhat different movie that does not necessarily follow mainstream rules, chances are that you will find here what you are looking for.

As usual, don't hesitate to leave a comment if you feel up to it.

PS: The movies are sorted by year and not necessarily by my preference. This list is by no means complete as I will add new worthwhile films as I stumble across them.

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1. The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu (1930)

Passed | 73 min | Mystery, Romance

The villainous master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu sets out to destroy the people he holds responsible for the death of his family.

Director: Rowland V. Lee | Stars: Warner Oland, O.P. Heggie, Jean Arthur, Neil Hamilton

Votes: 147

2. Murder by the Clock (1931)

76 min | Horror, Mystery

An elderly woman installs a horn in her crypt in case she's buried alive.

Director: Edward Sloman | Stars: William 'Stage' Boyd, Lilyan Tashman, Irving Pichel, Regis Toomey

Votes: 234

3. The Benson Murder Case (1930)

Passed | 65 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller

A ruthless, crooked stockbroker is murdered at his luxurious country estate, and detective Philo Vance just happens to be there; he decides to find out who killed him.

Director: Frank Tuttle | Stars: William Powell, William 'Stage' Boyd, Eugene Pallette, Paul Lukas

Votes: 255

4. Doctor X (1932)

Unrated | 76 min | Comedy, Crime, Horror

A wisecracking New York reporter intrudes on a research scientist's quest to unmask The Moon Killer.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster

Votes: 2,602

5. Chandu the Magician (1932)

Passed | 71 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

When delusional madman Roxor kidnaps a scientist in hopes of using his death ray to achieve world dominance, he is opposed by Chandu, a powerful hypnotist and yogi.

Directors: William Cameron Menzies, Marcel Varnel | Stars: Edmund Lowe, Irene Ware, Bela Lugosi, Herbert Mundin

Votes: 844

6. The Phantom of Crestwood (1932)

Passed | 76 min | Crime, Mystery

Jenny Wren coerces banker Priam Andes to have a dinner party at his shorefront estate Crestwood, and instructs him to invite three other men, each of whom she plans to extort money from. ... See full summary »

Director: J. Walter Ruben | Stars: Ricardo Cortez, Karen Morley, Anita Louise, Pauline Frederick

Votes: 499

7. The Living Dead (1932)

89 min | Comedy, Sci-Fi, Horror

A crazed scientist murders his wife, walls her up, then flees. A reporter sets out to track him down.

Director: Richard Oswald | Stars: Paul Wegener, Maria Koppenhöfer, Blandine Ebinger, Eugen Klöpfer

Votes: 81

8. Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

Passed | 100 min | Action, Adventure, Romance

A trader and his daughter set off in search of the fabled graveyard of the elephants in deepest Africa, only to encounter a wild man raised by apes.

Director: W.S. Van Dyke | Stars: Johnny Weissmuller, Neil Hamilton, C. Aubrey Smith, Maureen O'Sullivan

Votes: 6,664

9. The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)

G | 68 min | Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi

Englishmen race to find the tomb of Genghis Khan before the sinister Fu Manchu does.

Directors: Charles Brabin, Charles Vidor | Stars: Boris Karloff, Lewis Stone, Karen Morley, Charles Starrett

Votes: 2,875

10. The Crooked Circle (1932)

Passed | 70 min | Comedy, Mystery

A group of amateur detectives sets out to expose The Crooked Circle, a secretive group of hooded occultists.

Director: H. Bruce Humberstone | Stars: Zasu Pitts, James Gleason, Ben Lyon, Irene Purcell

Votes: 259

11. 6 Hours to Live (1932)

Approved | 72 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

A murder victim is brought back to life by a scientific experiment. However, the effects only last for six hours, and he must find his killer in that time.

Director: William Dieterle | Stars: Warner Baxter, Miriam Jordan, John Boles, George F. Marion

Votes: 103

12. Kongo (1932)

Passed | 86 min | Drama, Horror

This remake of West of Zanzibar (1928) made four years later tries to outdo the Lon Chaney original in morbidity. From a wheelchair a handicapped white man rules an area of Africa as a ... See full summary »

Director: William J. Cowen | Stars: Walter Huston, Lupe Velez, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Bruce

Votes: 795

13. The Menace (1932)

64 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Ronald Quayle escapes from prison. He was sent there for murdering his father, based on the testimony of his stepmother, Caroline. An explosion disfigures him, but plastic surgery gives him... See full summary »

Director: Roy William Neill | Stars: H.B. Warner, Walter Byron, Bette Davis, Natalie Moorhead

Votes: 405

14. Son of Kong (1933)

Passed | 70 min | Adventure, Comedy

50 Metascore

The men who captured the giant ape King Kong return to Skull Island and find his likewise gigantic but far more friendly son.

Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack | Stars: Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, Frank Reicher, John Marston

Votes: 3,734 | Gross: $1.34M

15. The Ghoul (1933)

Not Rated | 77 min | Action, Drama, Horror

An Egyptologist returns from the dead to take revenge on those who have violated his tomb.

Director: T. Hayes Hunter | Stars: Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke, Ernest Thesiger, Dorothy Hyson

Votes: 2,116

16. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Passed | 77 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

The disappearance of people and corpses leads a reporter to a wax museum and a sinister sculptor.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh

Votes: 4,316

17. The Vampire Bat (1933)

Passed | 65 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

When corpses drained of blood begin to show up in a European village, vampirism is suspected to be responsible.

Director: Frank R. Strayer | Stars: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, Maude Eburne

Votes: 2,042

18. Supernatural (1933)

Passed | 65 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A serial black widow murderess returns to life in the body of a young woman to exact revenge on a former lover, a phony spiritualist who betrayed her.

Director: Victor Halperin | Stars: Carole Lombard, Randolph Scott, Alan Dinehart, Vivienne Osborne

Votes: 474

19. The Monkey's Paw (1933)

Passed | 58 min | Horror

A mother wishes for the return of her dead son--a wish that is granted by the severed paw of a dead monkey.

Directors: Wesley Ruggles, Ernest B. Schoedsack | Stars: Ivan F. Simpson, Louise Carter, C. Aubrey Smith, Bramwell Fletcher

Votes: 70

20. White Woman (1933)

Passed | 68 min | Drama

A nightclub singer marries the rich owner of a rubber plantation. When she returns with him to his estate in Malaysia, she finds out that he is cruel, vicious and insanely jealous. She and ... See full summary »

Director: Stuart Walker | Stars: Carole Lombard, Charles Laughton, Charles Bickford, Kent Taylor

Votes: 169

21. Terror Aboard (1933)

69 min | Mystery

An ocean liner is found at sea with everyone on board dead. An investigation is begun to find out what happened.

Director: Paul Sloane | Stars: John Halliday, Charles Ruggles, Shirley Grey, Neil Hamilton

Votes: 77

22. Secret of the Chateau (1934)

Passed | 66 min | Crime, Mystery, Romance

Inspector Marotte, attending an auction of rare collectible books previously ownded by the recently murdered M. Le Duc de Poisse, hopes he can catch his old nemesis Prahec, a murderer and ... See full summary »

Director: Richard Thorpe | Stars: Claire Dodd, Alice White, Osgood Perkins, Jack La Rue

Votes: 86

23. Return of the Terror (1934)

65 min | Mystery

"The Terror", a killer whose identity is unknown, occupies an English country house that has been converted into an inn.

Director: Howard Bretherton | Stars: Mary Astor, Lyle Talbot, John Halliday, Frank McHugh

Votes: 17

24. Murder on the Blackboard (1934)

Passed | 71 min | Comedy, Drama, Mystery

A pretty young music teacher is bludgeoned to death in Hildegarde's school, where she's reunited with Oscar, but the autopsy report says she was dying from poison too.

Director: George Archainbaud | Stars: Edna May Oliver, James Gleason, Bruce Cabot, Gertrude Michael

Votes: 535

25. The 9th Guest (1934)

Passed | 65 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

Eight strangers are invited to spend the night in a penthouse apartment. After being wined and dined, a voice on the radio informs them that they will be murdered unless they manage to outwit the ninth guest: Death.

Director: Roy William Neill | Stars: Donald Cook, Genevieve Tobin, Hardie Albright, Edward Ellis

Votes: 365

26. The Dragon Murder Case (1934)

Approved | 67 min | Mystery

The Stann family gives a small party prior to daughter Bernice's marriage to socialite Monty, but all of the guests seem to be against the match.

Director: H. Bruce Humberstone | Stars: Warren William, Margaret Lindsay, Lyle Talbot, Eugene Pallette

Votes: 452

27. Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Passed | 104 min | Action, Adventure

The idyllic life of Tarzan and Jane is challenged by men on safari who come seeking ivory, and come seeking Jane as well.

Directors: Cedric Gibbons, James C. McKay, Jack Conway | Stars: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, Paul Cavanagh

Votes: 4,583

28. Bucket of Blood (1934)

55 min | Horror

A young man is driven mad by his obsession with the repulsive diseased eye of the old man who cares for him.

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst | Stars: Norman Dryden, John Kelt, Yolande Terrell, Thomas Shenton

Votes: 45

29. Werewolf of London (1935)

Passed | 75 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

The juice of a rare Tibetan flower is the only thing that keeps Dr. Glendon from turning into a werewolf during a full moon.

Director: Stuart Walker | Stars: Henry Hull, Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson, Lester Matthews

Votes: 4,497

30. Mark of the Vampire (1935)

Passed | 60 min | Horror, Mystery

When a nobleman is murdered, a professor of the occult blames vampires; but not all is what it seems.

Director: Tod Browning | Stars: Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill

Votes: 4,070

31. The Lone Wolf Returns (1935)

68 min | Mystery

Once a jewel thief always a jewel thief? Yes and no. Yes if you consider the fact that Michael Lanyard also known as the Lone Wolf once retired from the "trade" but relapses back into his ... See full summary »

Director: Roy William Neill | Stars: Melvyn Douglas, Gail Patrick, Tala Birell, Henry Mollison

Votes: 73

32. The Casino Murder Case (1935)

Passed | 82 min | Mystery

After socialite Lynn Llewwllen receives an anonymous threat, he is poisoned at his uncle's casino, and although he recovers, his wife is murdered by the same killer.

Director: Edwin L. Marin | Stars: Paul Lukas, Alison Skipworth, Donald Cook, Rosalind Russell

Votes: 482

33. Air Hawks (1935)

Passed | 68 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

A mysterious ray that immobilizes all motors and engines threatens the security of the country.

Director: Albert S. Rogell | Stars: Ralph Bellamy, Tala Birell, Wiley Post, Douglass Dumbrille

Votes: 143

34. Murder on a Honeymoon (1935)

Approved | 74 min | Comedy, Drama, Mystery

A schoolteacher and amateur sleuth suspects foul play when a fellow passenger on a sea-plane gets sick and dies.

Director: Lloyd Corrigan | Stars: Edna May Oliver, James Gleason, Lola Lane, George Meeker

Votes: 652

35. Hop-a-Long Cassidy (1935)

Passed | 60 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

An evil ranch foreman tries to provoke a range war by playing two cattlemen against each other while helping a gang to rustle the cattle. Each cattleman blames the other for missing cattle.... See full summary »

Director: Howard Bretherton | Stars: William Boyd, James Ellison, Paula Stone, George 'Gabby' Hayes

Votes: 255

36. The Eagle's Brood (1935)

Passed | 61 min | Action, Adventure, Western

When the outlaw El Toro saves Hoppy's life, Hoppy agrees to find his missing grandson.

Director: Howard Bretherton | Stars: William Boyd, James Ellison, William Farnum, George 'Gabby' Hayes

Votes: 162

37. Bar 20 Rides Again (1935)

Passed | 61 min | Action, Adventure, Western

Cattle rustler Nevada dreams of living like an emperor in the West. Hoppy and the Bar 20 boys aim to put an end to his dream.

Director: Howard Bretherton | Stars: William Boyd, James Ellison, Jean Rouverol, George 'Gabby' Hayes

Votes: 156

38. The Walking Dead (1936)

Approved | 66 min | Crime, Horror, Sci-Fi

After hapless pianist and ex-con John Elman is framed for murder, he is resurrected by a scientist after his execution.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Boris Karloff, Ricardo Cortez, Edmund Gwenn, Marguerite Churchill

Votes: 2,234

39. Dracula's Daughter (1936)

Approved | 71 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Hungarian countess Marya Zaleska seeks the aid of a noted psychiatrist, hoping to free herself of a mysterious evil influence.

Director: Lambert Hillyer | Stars: Otto Kruger, Gloria Holden, Marguerite Churchill, Edward Van Sloan

Votes: 5,351

40. The Case of the Black Cat (1936)

Approved | 66 min | Crime, Mystery, Drama

An bedridden eccentric millionaire, anticipating his own murder, hires Mason to help him rewrite his will, and the lawyer ends up defending the caretaker's cat.

Directors: William C. McGann, Alan Crosland | Stars: Ricardo Cortez, June Travis, Jane Bryan, Craig Reynolds

Votes: 480

41. The Preview Murder Mystery (1936)

Passed | 60 min | Action, Mystery

A public relations man for a movie studio uses an early form of television to help solve a murder.

Director: Robert Florey | Stars: Reginald Denny, Frances Drake, Gail Patrick, Rod La Rocque

Votes: 62

42. Murder on a Bridle Path (1936)

Approved | 66 min | Comedy, Drama, Mystery

After Hildegarde proves that the accidental riding death on a Central Park bridle path is really murder, she's faced with a plethora of red herrings and a real killer.

Directors: William Hamilton, Edward Killy | Stars: James Gleason, Helen Broderick, Louise Latimer, Owen Davis Jr.

Votes: 364

43. The Plot Thickens (1936)

Approved | 69 min | Comedy, Drama, Mystery

A priceless Cellini silver cup is stolen from a local museum with both Hildegarde and Oscar on the case.

Director: Ben Holmes | Stars: James Gleason, Zasu Pitts, Owen Davis Jr., Louise Latimer

Votes: 299

44. The Man Who Lived Again (1936)

Not Rated | 66 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

Dr. Laurience, a brilliant but unstable scientist experimenting with transferring minds, becomes vengeful when his magnate patron withdraws his support.

Director: Robert Stevenson | Stars: Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, John Loder, Frank Cellier

Votes: 879

45. Two in the Dark (1936)

Approved | 74 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Ford Adams regains consciousness in Boston, bloody and suffering from amnesia. Information he eventually uncovers (with the help of Marie Smith) connects him to a well-known producer--who's... See full summary »

Director: Benjamin Stoloff | Stars: Walter Abel, Margot Grahame, Wallace Ford, Gail Patrick

Votes: 123

46. Fährmann Maria (1936)

85 min | Thriller, Horror, Mystery